July 4th marks the 245th birthday of the United States. I confess, I’m patriotic.
To read and listen to many media people today, you would almost think that they view patriotism as something low-brow or distasteful.
I would think those in the media should be some of the most patriotic of all people. Why? Because it is the unique freedoms in America that give them and their industry the ability to exist at all. I am always surprised and a little disappointed when people in the media seem to take their freedoms for granted and diminish patriotism. The First Amendment says,
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble…”
Today, we take this as a given, but at the time this was a revolutionary idea. Historically, speaking your mind in public, printing the “wrong” opinion, meeting with an officially disfavored person or group, worshipping in a way the state didn’t approve could easily get you arrested, imprisoned, or worse, and often did. Just ask Socrates and Sir Thomas More for just two of many examples. Today, in countries without First Amendment protections, even in Western countries like Britain and Canada, simply voicing out-of-favor opinions can still get people in trouble with the government.
Of course, in most countries, First Amendment protections are simply non-existent and the only “freedoms” that exist are by the sufferance of those in power.
I also find it ironic that those people today calling for the tearing down of the “unjust” United States, are only able to do so because of the unique American rights, freedoms, and prosperity they enjoy. In many nations around the world they would face immediate suppression by the government.
Is America perfect? No, just as no person is perfect. I am not blind to the nation’s sins and shortcomings, but that does not keep me from being thankful for its virtues and for the blessings of being an American.
A moral case for patriotism
I think there is a moral case to be made for reasonable patriotism.
One of the Ten Commandments says,“Honor your father and your mother…” A reasonable patriotism seems just an extension of that.
It seems reasonable that we should also honor the nation that has helped nurture us, protect us, shelter us, and feed us, even if we recognize its shortcomings or disagree with certain policies.
Everything that we take for granted, roads, houses, indoor plumbing, electricity, abundant food, clean water, free education, and many more such provisions, were given to us simply for being Americans. Someone else paid the price in sweat and labor to make those things available to me, and to you.
Not from wealth and privilege
I am not patriotic because I came from wealth and privilege. I came from a working class family. My father was a truck driver and my mother a waitress. They struggled. They worked nights and weekends to help make ends meet. No one paid for my college. After high school, I spent 10 years working in warehouses. Yet, I was grateful for the unique opportunities that America gave me to grow and improve my lot in life.
Americans have been given rights and freedoms that were unimaginable to most generations. Not only the First Amendment, but also the rule of law, the right to a little plot of land to call their own, to be free from unreasonable searches and seizure, from threat of double jeopardy, and from cruel and unusual punishments. Generations of humans long dead would envy us these rights and freedoms.
Might patriotism be just another word for gratitude?
America, a special nation?
America is also the place where the telegraph, telephone, automobiles, airplane, liquid-fueled rockets, radio, television, microprocessor, internet, and iPhone were invented or perfected. Miracle drugs like penicillin, the polio vaccine, and insulin were invented here.
Not only that, in the 20th century, America fought and won two world wars, defeated fascism, won the Cold War, and sent humans to the moon. Isn’t a country that would birth and nurture those things worthy of recognition?
Those who gave the ultimate sacrifice
Perhaps most importantly, hundreds of thousands of fellow Americans have given their lives on battlefields so that we could keep the freedoms we enjoy. Most of them died young, giving up their futures, their hopes and dreams, so that we, the living, might have a chance at those things and that this nation, and its precious freedoms, might endure. When Revolutionary War patriot Nathan Hale was about to be hanged by the British for spying, he said, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”
Shouldn’t I be grateful for that kind of sacrifice? Shouldn’t I express at least a modicum of gratitude and honor for those things? Shouldn’t I be a little bit patriotic and maybe tear up just a little bit when I hear the crescendo of the Star Spangled Banner?
I think I should. Maybe we all should.
Happy 4th of July. HVN